Which licence free two way radios and frequencies can be used in the UK and what are the best options?
Anyone can buy one (or more) licence free walkie talkie two way radios and use them for back to back communications straight out of the box with no need for a licence. The ranges of radios can vary from just a few yards to many many miles depending on what you use and the conditions in which you use them. But which are the best to get? What has the best range? And which one’s are actually licence free and legal to use in the UK?
UHF is probably the most popular band however VHF frequencies are available. One important point is, just because you buy a pair of walkie talkies on ebay, it does not mean they are legal to use, so first we will look at what are actually legal to use.
Legal Licence Free Frequencies and Radios in The UK
The most popular licence free radios are PMR446 and can be bought from places like Argos, Maplins, eBay etc. The fixed purpose made units are 500mw output power (half a watt) and are the only legal UHF licence free two way radios you can buy off the shelf other than LPD 433MHz devices which are not the best, you can find some 446 radios that also include the LPD 433MHz channels on them.
You can buy other UHF radios that will cover PMR446 on eBay, like the cheap Baofeng, Puxing and other two way radios but many of these are not technically legal to use, mostly as on high power they are 5 watts, 10 times the power of a standard PMR446. This makes them technically not fully legal to use in the UK though many do, and if you do get some of the cheap Baofeng etc type radios then be sure to stick to the PMR446 frequencies, as using other frequencies licenced to other users can get you into very deep water with the authorities.
There are eight PMR 446 Analogue frequencies, these can be used with CTCSS/DCS codes to cut out other users not on your code, CTCSS is usually available on most of the cheaper models, businesses tend to go for higher range PMR446 sets such as Kenwood and Icom that have DCS as well as CTCSS to cut out interference from other users.
The 8 analogue frequencies available for licence free PMR446 are as follows…
PMR 446 Default Channel 1: 446.00625
PMR 446 Default Channel 2: 446.01875
PMR 446 Default Channel 3: 446.03125
PMR 446 Default Channel 4: 446.04375
PMR 446 Default Channel 5: 446.05625
PMR 446 Default Channel 6: 446.06875
PMR 446 Default Channel 7: 446.08125
PMR 446 Default Channel 8: 446.09375
There is also a Digital version of PMR446 available known as dPMR which operates just above the analogue band at 446.1 – 446.2 MHz. The frequencies for all these channels can be seen here.
Are GMRS/FRS two way radios Legal in the UK?
The American equivalent of our PMR446 radios is GMRS/FRS. These sets have higher power and more channels than our PMR446 radios but are not legal to use in the UK. There are a lot of them on eBay which has resulted in a lot being bought and used in the UK as they offer more power, channels and privacy but the frequencies over here are not licence free, some channels are even used by the UK Fire service so should not be used over here in the UK. The same thing goes for the popular Baofeng BF-888 radios which are cheap and widely used in the UK due to their availability but still not legal in the UK.
What other licence free frequencies and radios can be used in the UK?
Along with PMR446 and LPD 433MHz there are other licence free options available. The most popular of these being CB radios. These can be used licence free with higher power and the range can also be increased greatly by using base stations, and base and mobile antennas. It isn’t a private option though, you get a better range but expect to hear a lot of users on the channels, especially local truck drivers in the mornings and daytime along with other using making long distance (DX) contacts. If you are looking for the best licence free option for your business, say a factory or office etc. then PMR446 with the DCS option may be your best choice, or after that consider getting your own licence from Ofcom.
What other licence free channels are available in the UK?
Other than the ones mentioned above there is very little else available for two way coms in the UK that does not require a licence, and certainly nothing that matches the above in performance anyway. For instance there are licence free frequencies around 40MHz – 50MHz, these are mainly used for low power devices such as intercoms, on site pagers, baby monitors and kids walkie talkies, and by kids walkie talkies I mean those cheap toy ones that you can buy, like Action Man, Barbie etc. that have the squelch constantly open because they only have a range of a few yards. Other than that there is very little else. There are licence free frequencies around 800-900MHz but these are really only for wireless mics and headphones and then there are licence frequencies even higher in the GHz bands but these are mainly for things such as CCTV, wireless TV senders, radars, Quadcopter Drones, etc.
I hope this article has helped you if you are looking for licence free radios in the UK, if you have any questions or feedback then please leave me a comment below.
Over and Out…